Purified recombinant proteins are used in products ranging from biological soap powders to cutting-edge medicines. The rate at which these proteins degrade is critical to their function. Technologies that address the rate of degradation and enable novel applications can transform the value of a protein
Cytokines and growth factors
Cochlear implants (CIs) do not produce the same rich sound experience that can be provided by properly functioning ears. One limitation on performance is the quality of connection CIs form with auditory nerves they electrically stimulate. This connection may be improved by co-implanting iPSC-derived otic neuronal progenitor cells to help bridge the gap. A â€œneurotrophic stripâ€ containing slowly releasing growth factors that generate a growth factor gradient ensures these neurons extend in the right direction.
A team at UC Davis Medical Centre in Sacramento, California, have used mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) patches to treat spina bifida. Although still experimental, with outcomes yet unknown in the few babies that received the treatment, earlier work on English bulldogs and other models of spinal cord injury suggests this approach may be useful to treat spina bifida.
For a drug to be successful, just as important as what the drug does to the body, is what the body does to the drug. Not only is it important to transport therapeutic drugs effectively to where they are needed, but once it is there, they have to remain long enough to have an effect. Studies to understand a drug's journey through the body are in the domain of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, usually abbreviated to DMPK.
From 1957 to 1961, Thalidomide, a small molecule drug, was prescribed to treat a range of conditions in pregnant women including morning sickness. The developmental abnormalities that it caused in the developing foetus made the drug synonymous with pharmaceutical negligence. Despite this, in 1988, thalidomide was approved for the safe treatment of leprosy and cancer.
Rapidly increasing public and private research funding is increasing our understanding of the ageing process. This is starting to yield results that could allow therapeutic intervention. Surprisingly, it seems a single cytokine could modulate brain ageing. Could we be on the verge of therapies that will extend the limits of human health?
The development of complex multicellular forms, such as this zebrafish, relies on the activity of morphogen gradients acting differentially on individual cell surface receptors. The way receptors and their ligands present themselves to each other, either dispersed or in clusters, has a dramatic impact on the consequences of their interaction.
Recombinant cytokines and other growth factors underpin cell culture and are as important to biotechnology as semi-conductors are to information technology. They also provide a source of cell-based assay variability. Understanding cytokine dynamics is important to the design of better cell-based assays and manufacturing systems.
In the 1890s, William Coley (pictured) pioneered techniques that boost immune activity against cancer by injecting pathogens into cancer patients to stimulate their immune system. The modern emergence of onco-immunotherapy began with the therapeutic development of cytokines. These messenger proteins modulate both innate and adaptive immunity. Although they have been overshadowed by checkpoint inhibitors for the last decade, there is renewed interest in targeting and harnessing cytokines for cancer immunotherapy.
Mucosal surfaces are the primary interface between an individual and pathogens and are particularly vulnerable to infection. Yet, they also come into regular contact with a host of antigens that need to be tolerated. To allow tolerance and deal with a constant threat of infection, a dynamic and complex array of immune mechanisms provide a finely calibrated first response to these invasive microbial threats.